Hate Kentucky’s Title? Beware, Nerlens Noel Would Be the Same for Syracuse

If N2 chooses SU next week, he would be the next one-and-done in college hoops.


There was a reason why nearly everyone outside the Bluegrass State was pulling for Kansas on Monday night. As the final buzzer sounded and Kentucky began to celebrate in the New Orleans Superdome, it seemed like everything wrong with college athletics had been rewarded with a National Championship. But would Nerlens Noel represent the same thing if he chose Syracuse?

We look back nostalgically at Michigan’s “Fab Five” or Duke’s back-to-back dynasty as groups of players who were identifiable for years with a program. There were no one-and-done’s even for the hot shot Wolverines of the ’90s, Chris Weber stayed for two seasons. In an era when player movement in professional sports is at an all-time high, college athletics has the potential to serve as a friendly escape.

The NBA is filled with mercenaries looking for their next contract, and that concept is supposed to be different in college. Players form lifetime bonds with teammates and their school during what many call the best years of their lives. Fans develop similar attachment to the athletes. Orange Nation wanted to give Scoop Jardine a giant collective hug after the emotional loss to Ohio State.

Jardine and Kris Joseph (and hundreds of other seniors every year) spend several years working their tails off, growing on the court and off it, for a chance at the ultimate goal of winning a National Title. But almost all college hoops experts expect N2 to drop onto a college campus for one season, dominate the paint and show glorious upside, then pack his bags for the draft.

Kentucky swaggered into the dance with a band of rent-a-freshman superathletes, and completely wiped out the competition. Most of them presumably used UK as nothing more than a steppingstone to the NBA, under the premise John Calipari runs a better one-year factory than anyone else. Kentucky only had one upperclassman in its seven-man rotation, and the same will probably be the case next year, with another new cast of characters – maybe including Noel. 

Think that’s wrong? Immoral? Bad for the game?

You might be right. But before you go too far with that notion, think back to 2003. Freshman Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to its first National Championship, and promptly left for the NBA. He certainly developed a bond with the school. Years later, the impressive Melo Center helps pull in bigtime recruits. But his focus once second semester began was basketball, and then making his way to the NBA.

On Wedneday, top recruit Noel will choose between the Orange, the Wildcats and Georgetown. If he pulls a Carmelo (and not a Fab Melo), steps on campus to help push a young Syracuse team to the Final Four a year from now then bolts for the pro riches, you won’t hear many Central New Yorkers complaining.

John Calipari is a slimeball. It’s fair to despise his National Championship and multiple vacated Final Fours. But he’s merely taking advantage of a system that’s already in place, and clearly the one-and-done model works. If Nerlens decides on Orange next week, we can only hope it works just as well for Jim Boeheim next year.

Posted: Andrew Kanell

20 Comments on this Post

  1. Anonymous

    That’s not the same thing as getting Carmelo and having him leave after just one year. Calipari’s whole system is bringing in one-and-done’s. Carmelo was a single one and done on a REAL TEAM. Huge difference.

  2. Good point. If Kentucky’s team was built with 2-3-4 year guys, and then just Davis showed up to push them over the top it would be a more fair comparison. Not to speak for Kanell, but I think his point is if Noel helped win a title, then bolted we would say “hey, that’s how the game is played today” instead of griping that somehow it was cheapened. But good feedback.

  3. AnaheimOrange

    Agree with Anonymous. I don’t think JB included the one-and-done concept as part of his recruiting pitch to Carmelo. Unlike Calipari, I don’t ever see him doing that – no matter how high a player’s national ranking is.

    Until there are changes implemented by the NBA to raise the entry age for players coming into the league or an NCAA investigation, Calipari will continue to do what he does.

  4. Evan I

    Ya, there is no way to compare Nerlens coming to a team of veterans to going to a team of all freshman. This article doesnt make sense. Fact of the matter is, it is VERY RARE for a team of mostly freshman players to win a national championship. At Cuse, Nerlens could step into a veteran squad (like Melo did) and be the centerpiece that takes the team to the next level. I hope he doesnt follow in A. Davis’ footsteps because I want this kid to make his own legacy and put his own stamp on college sports. Who wants to be a follower when they can be a leader?

  5. Thanks for reading everyone.

    I’m not completely equating a potential title run with Noel to Kentucky’s run this season, or saying that Boeheim would ever try to abuse the one-and-done system like Coach Cal does.

    Noel ABSOLUTELY makes the difference between SU being a championship contender and a Sweet 16-type team. Basically, for those SU fans that had feelings of bitterness about UK relying on freshmen to win, just remember how much you want the Orange to land Noel. It wouldn’t turn SU into Kentucky, or Boeheim into Calipari, but the Coleman-Noel combo could on a smaller scale pull what UK did this year.


  6. AnaheimOrange

    Hey Kanell, definitely a good article and it got folks responding.

    I get your point, but I don’t think Orange fans have bitterness about UK relying on freshmen to win it all. What we have heartburn with is how Calipari’s system is built around the one-and-done player – AND how he seems to land them year after year. What makes this season especially unfortunate in this light is the fact that Calipari’s one-and-done recruiting is validated. He won it all. He proved his system works.

    Now, almost every Syracuse fan, and every other college basketball fan has the feeling that something ain’t right with this picture. We’re all waiting for the almost inevitable vacating of the Championship. Something untoward has to be happening down there in Lexington. Case in point the “stories” surrounding Poppa Davis shopping his son’s recruitment to the highest bidder. There are other “stories” out there, as well. And, well, Calipari does have a certain track record…

  7. Great discussion everyone. I def. rethought how I felt about UK after I read Kanell’s piece. Hard to resent it too much if N2 came in and pulled an A-Davis (and won a title). But there’s definite differences in UK/SU as everyone is noting above. Great stuff.

  8. Carlton

    I dont hate uk an cal for the one an dones. I hate cal b/c of the shady shit that goes on an the web of dirtballs. From CAA to www aka world wide wes an now throw in the crazy boosters uk has an u dont have to be that smart to start seeing whats goin on. Cal has just got better at cheating an coverin his tracks but thats how it goes. Hes like a drug dealer got busted a couple times learned from it got better at an now sits at the top.

  9. ATL Orange

    Y’all must of forgot! What Kentucky did this year Syracuse has already done!! Syracuse had three freshman on the 2003 championship team! Melo,edelin, and the sharpshooter G Mac!

  10. Markus

    You take shots at a Coach who recruits the best players, like he’s doing something wrong! Every player Kentucky has, Syracuse WOULD LOVE TO HAVE! Its funny how people hate when Kentucky is on top!

  11. Markus

    You take shots at a Coach who recruits the best players, like he’s doing something wrong! Every player Kentucky has, Syracuse WOULD LOVE TO HAVE! Its funny how people hate when Kentucky is on top! You guys are idiots!

  12. So you guys are saying that Jim wouldnt take anthony davis or kidd – gilchrist if they wanted to go to syracuse and be a one and done.. IT just comes down to who will hep them get to the NBA faster.. If you dont want one and dones then don’t recruit them.. I think the syracuse fans would be upset if davis and/or kidd gilcrhist wanted to go to syracuse and jim said no because you only gonna stay one year..

  13. I dont think cal has been in the news lately.. Ithink is has been mostly syracuse in the news.. From can’t passing the grade to coverin up a assistant that molested children. Don’t throw rocks when you own a glass house

  14. Hey syracuse fans ………. WE GOT NOEL!!!!!! WEAREUK BBN!!!!! N

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